Gates and Buffet ask Giving Pledge American Billionaires Half Net Worth

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, among the richest men in the world, recently threw down the philanthropic gauntlet to American billionaires – calling on that elite class to give away at least half of their total net worth to good causes.

The two men have both long been on record as saying they intend to pass most of their immense wealth on to charity, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in particular has been regarded as a serious step in making good on that pledge. Now the campaign has stepped up a notch, and with Eli Broad and Michael Bloomberg joining the bandwagon, pressure is mounting on wealthy Americans to sign up, to maintain good public relations if for no other reason…

“The Giving Pledge” has been gathering serious momentum in recent weeks, as Gates and Buffet have been holding a series of meetings and dinners with American billionaires to drum up support. Buffet himself, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has pledged to give as much as 99% of his wealth to charity, and is paying it in annual installments to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With an estimated fortune of $47 billion, it is going to take a while for the world’s third richest man to get down to that last 1%, but it is a dramatic gesture that has not gone unnoticed by others.

Michael Bloomberg, in a statement dated June 16th, 2010, said that he had “always said that the best financial planning ends with bouncing the check to the undertaker,” which represents a fantastically cavalier attitude to personal finance for anyone, let alone one of the world’s richest men.

Those who have signed up to Buffet’s Giving Pledge ascribe to Andrew Carnegie’s assertion that “A man who dies rich, dies disgraced.”

The initiative comes at a crucial time in the world economy, when the availability of money has been squeezed by the credit crunch and subsequent global recession. Releasing a huge chunk of personal wealth into the markets through the conduits of charitable causes could well kick-start many communities and organisations currently struggling through the tail end of the worst recession in living memory.

It is ironic that while most of us scramble to amass as much wealth and cash as possible in our menial working lives, so many of those who actually manage to gain untold riches end up by realising that this material wealth signifies very little in the end. There will be those who are cynical about the Giving Pledge initiative, claiming it is nothing but a publicity stunt, but the truth is that the very richest men in the world really do not have to care two hoots about their publicity, good or bad. Most normal citizens would be left destitute if they gave away half their net worth, but we can all hope to be as generous and philanthropic as Buffet and Gates if we ever attain even a tiny fraction of their accumulated worth.